Ever since she moved to Greenville, South Carolina, in 1950, Jeanet Steckler Dreskin has been a dynamic regional force as an educator and inventive artist. Born in New Orleans in 1921, she was raised in an artistic environment fostered by her mother and grandmother’s own creative pursuits. Awarded an academic scholarship at age seventeen, she entered Sophie Newcomb College, the woman’s adjunct of Tulane University. She studied with Xavier Gonzalez and Will Henry Stevens, who taught her about art fundamentals and the importance of materials, while inculcating an appreciation of nature. Night classes conducted by John McCrady provided her the opportunity to draw from nude models. After taking pre-medical courses at Tulane, Steckler was admitted to the medical arts program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1942, eventually earning a graduate certificate.

Following her marriage, Dreskin accepted a position with the American Museum of Natural History in New York and studied at the Art Students League in the evenings. At the museum, Dreskin focused on illustrations of primates and completed one hundred drawings for a publication entitled Gorilla, Gorilla. She moved to the Midwest in 1946 and joined the staff of the University of Chicago as a medical illustrator. When the Dreskins settled in Greenville, her career shifted toward art education and the creation of her own work.

In the late 1960s, Dreskin was asked to head the school at the Greenville County Museum of Art. Several years later, she planned the studio spaces in the museum’s new building. While she remained an active instructor—at both the museum and the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities— for many years, she ultimately gave up her teaching duties to dedicate more time to her art.

In 1971, Dreskin enrolled in the new graduate program at Clemson University, becoming the school’s first recipient of a master of fine arts degree. While there, she embarked on a series known as her “sere” paintings, works she described as a “statement in reaction to overpopulation and the abortion movement. In these paintings of environmental destruction, I often build up many levels of perception using collage layers as well as transparencies of watercolor.” The term sere functions on many levels: as a reference to the craters—or ecological wounds—used as the paintings’ central motif, and also in its connotation of an object being dried or withered, given that Dreskin actually burned layers of her collages. She used watercolor to enhance the images with sperm-like squiggles, alluding to her concerns for overpopulation.

A later series known as the “Magic Carpets” dates to the 1980s. Executed in a variety of mediums—including watercolor, lithography, and monotype—these works tended to be more colorful, either in bright red or a vivid blue. Occasionally, the image of a fertility goddess was inserted, the result of extensive travel in Greece, but the most potent symbol is the carpet and its connection to South Carolina’s textile industry. Other themes Dreskin has explored over the years include ones relating to eyeballs—a throwback to her experience as a medical illustrator—and imagery of the sea, incorporating both shells and the movement of waves.

Dreskin’s lists of exhibitions and collections is extensive, and museums throughout the Southeast, as well as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, own examples of her work. She is also represented in university holdings, such as Furman, Clemson, and the College of Charleston, as well as numerous area corporate collections. In 2004, Dreskin received the South Carolina Governor’s Award for the Arts in the category of lifetime achievement.